Saturday, March 3, 2012

Water Kefir - Best Soda Ever!

I am hooked on water kefir (keh-FEER). A friend of mine gave me some fresh kefir grains about a month ago. They look like a juicy gummy candy (or some describe them as 'cauliflower looking pieces'). It comes dried for purchasing and starting - like from Cultures for Health. There's quite a few videos on youTube - like this one. Kefir is so healthy - full of probiotics (see link for list)! Here's another link with lots of info.

A basic recipe for WATER KEFIR -
1/4C kefir grains
2Tbs-1/4 sucanat (pure dried sugar cane with nutrients) (it will work with white sugar too)(I've been using just 2 Tbs)
fill to 1" of top of a quart jar with water (best to not be chlorinated or with flouride)

Some people dissolve the sugar first in some hot water. But don't pour hot water onto kefir grains or you will kill them. So let it cool. I haven't done this process yet. I stir the sugar and grains and a bit of water with a plastic spoon (can use sterilized wooden spoon - never use metal) until it seems dissolved. Add the rest of the water and cap. I'll tighten the lid and periodically shake. Then store in place with no direct sunlight for 24-48 hrs. The kefir grains will have multiplied. Taste. If too sweet, sitting longer eats up more sugar. Eventually it starts making alcohol (very slight). Strain the liquid into another jar - eliminate some of the grains and start over.

Eat the extra grains. Throw them in your garden. Compost them. Share them with friends.

You can experiment with flavorings. I've only tried adding sliced ginger so far, cuz I so like the plain kefir. You can add some molasses, and vanilla flavoring. Try orange juice. Try raisins and sliced lemon. Try other fruits. But do these additions after straining off the kefir grains so you don't compromise their integrity - you could call this a second ferment. Let sit another day and strain to refrigerate.

Vacation? Your jar with sugar water and grains will keep in the fridge several weeks. Freezing works too. And since it comes dry in packets, it must be able to be dehydrated.


Added later note: I'm now making it with organic white sugar and a tsp of blackstrap molasses and 1/2 of a washed egg shell, for added minerals - still in quart jars. I have a second jar with bits of fresh ginger in it too. I'm now always adding a teaspoon of vanilla, after straining the grains and about to refrigerate the drink - tastes like cream soda (actually, it doesn't need to be refrigerated if you're a room temp beverage drinker - like me - like I prefer room temp flavored beer - I guess I'd make a good European). So I've ordered Madagascar Vanilla Beans to make my own vanilla extract, and will post about it. There's lots of flavoring ideas out there.

Another new note: Sticking with the basic recipe but now in a 1/2 gallon jar.

Since I'm going to be doing a raw milk piima culture (probably similar to the dairy kefir), I've been reading more. Just in case you are "brewing" differing strains of things in your kitchen ... Separate them by at least 3 feet, so no "cross-pollination" (gardening term). Once bottled in fridge there's no problem.

Newest note-  Am going to start making the dairy kefir too. As I've researched more, it's the only strain that will keep reproducing using raw milk. All the other cultures (Villa, Piima, yogurt ...) require a sterile milk mother culture which requires heating milk to at least 160-180 degrees and refreshing this culture. Then you use 1 Tb per Cup of raw milk to culture at room temperature.


Rebecca said...

I have been hesitant to try kifer yet, both the water and the milk. I am trying to get up the nerve to buy some. I don't like buttermilk and I am afraid that is what it is going to taste like.

Karey said...

Rebecca, water kefir is NOTHING like dairy kefir!!!!! It is such a refreshing beverage! You've got to try it.

I've ordered a piima culture (I think that's what it's called) for making a room temp 'yogurt' with the raw milk. But that would be more like buttermilk. With always making yogurt, I stopped doing the dairy kefir ... There's only so much one can deal with and eat!

Today I'm making feta cheese and hopefully ricotta from it's whey. I better get busy!

Rebecca said...

Alright, you've convinced me about the water kefir but did you like the dairy kefir? It seems easier than yogurt, keeping the temp right and all.

Karey said...

The dairy kefir was fine. I'm sure the Piima culture will be about the same. All these differing strains out there now from differing localities is fun. I bet they're all pretty similar. Monte's dairy farmer Swedish aunt made what she called "felibunk" (my pronunciation - don't know how it's spelled) and it might be like all these room temp milk cutures.

One thing I like about these cultures over yogurt is their culture will last a lifetime, whereas I buy yogurt culture to refurbish and refresh my yogurt.

But we'll see, since this is a new path. I primarily want to keep the nutritive value of the raw milk with no heating.

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